Tech­nol­ogy helps em­power women

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Chris Arse­nault

NEW tech­nol­ogy had “brought the bank” to mil­lions of low­in­come women in a revo­lu­tion that could help drive eco­nomic growth, Mary Ellen Isk­ende­rian, the pres­i­dent of Women’s World Bank­ing, said yes­ter­day. She said women in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries were em­brac­ing the use of cell­phones, ATMs and point-of­sale ter­mi­nals. About 2.8 bil­lion peo­ple world­wide did not have a bank ac­count, Isk­ende­rian said, and poor women, liv­ing on $2 (R22) a day or less, were 28 per­cent less likely to have a bank ac­count than men. Isk­ende­rian said data showed women were bet­ter than men at pay­ing off loans, that they de­posited money fre­quently and left it in the bank for longer. “A sav­ings ac­count un­der a woman’s name means that if she suf­fers do­mes­tic abuse, she has the safety net to leave her hus­band in the knowl­edge that she can pro­vide for her­self.” She said her or­gan­i­sa­tion wanted to tackle a bias against giv­ing women larger loans, and to work to over­haul fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions’ poli­cies to en­sure fewer low-in­come women were left be­hind. – Reuters,

GIVE women the same ac­cess to land, credit, ad­vice and mar­kets as men, and they could in­crease yields on their farms by more than 20 per­cent, boost­ing to­tal global agri­cul­tural out­put by up to 4 per­cent, a lead­ing land rights re­searcher said.

Women pro­duce nearly half of the food grown in the de­vel­op­ing world, yet women farm­ers re­ceive only 5 per­cent of all agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion ser­vices glob­ally – in­clud­ing credit, train­ing, mar­ket­ing and re­search, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

If women farm­ers were given more re­sources, they could help re­duce the num­ber of hun­gry peo­ple in the world by up to 150 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the UN World Food Pro­gramme.

For years, cam­paign­ers have ar­gued for more in­vest­ment in women farm­ers, and bet­ter recog­ni­tion of their land rights.

Elisa Scalise, di­rec­tor of the Lan­desa Cen­ter for Women’s Land Rights, said in many coun­tries and re­gions, the sit­u­a­tion for women farm­ers had im­proved. “The global trend is pos­i­tive,” Scalise said in an in­ter­view.

“Re­gional bod­ies and na­tional gov­ern­ments are at least talk­ing about women’s land rights now, and just 5 to 10 years ago this was not the case,” she said be­fore a de­bate on ac­cess to land.

For ex­am­ple, Kenya used its 2010 con­sti­tu­tion to pro­vide pro­tec­tion for fe­male prop­erty rights.

In China, where women are es­ti­mated to ac­count for more than 70 per­cent of the agri­cul­tural work­force, the need to pro­tect women’s land rights was, for the first time in mod­ern his­tory, in­cluded in a ma­jor pol­icy doc­u­ment re­leased ear­lier this year, Scalise said.

Cit­ing re­search that showed land did bet­ter un­der the man­age­ment of women farm­ers, she said in Viet­nam cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in ru­ral ar­eas was higher when women hold land ti­tle, and in Rwanda, fe­male- headed house­holds were more likely to invest in soil con­ser­va­tion mea­sures.

Lan­desa says women who own land have 3.8 times more in­come than those who don’t, their chil­dren are 33 per­cent less likely to be se­verely un­der­weight, and they are eight times less likely to face do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Yet women are still bat­tling to se­cure their land rights.

Of 143 coun­tries sur­veyed by the World Bank ear­lier this year, 37 still have dis­crim­i­na­tory land laws in place.

Chang­ing this needs to “start with un­der­stand­ing that land rights are part of a cul­tural sys­tem, and that cul­tural sys­tems also de­fine gen­der roles,” Scalise said. “That link is crit­i­cal.”

Hav­ing a strong cham­pion in gov­ern­ment helps, she said. – Reuters

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

A lead­ing rights re­searcher says women can boost to­tal global agri­cul­tural out­put by up to 4 per­cent.

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